Monday, September 24, 2012

Sermon on Mark 9:30-37 for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, "Instructable and Humble"

Sermon Outline:
1.      Happens every day in classrooms—teacher is explaining a new word or concept; students don’t understand, but are afraid to ask. Am I the only one? (usually not). Embarrassed? Seem smart as the rest—so stays silent. What happens? Learning gets stuck. As every teacher knows, asking questions is one of the best ways to learn and understand. Every good teacher is a pushover for good questions. Almost every one of them will follow a teachable tangent. Questions are a sign that minds are engaged and curiosity is opened. Clever teacher knows not to be sidetracked by distractions, questions that aren’t serious, or can’t be answered.
2.      We shouldn’t be afraid of asking questions. Encouraged. Dozens of questions just based on our Bible readings today. Some tough material. Each Sunday we read three sections of the Bible, taking us through major portions of the Bible every three years. Many more questions than can be answered in a single sermon, or I’d keep you here all day. Bible study>questions.
3.      Jesus was the greatest teacher. Wanted good questions, wanted learning—but never fell for trick questions, and often gave surprising answers. Sometimes answered a question with a question. Kept them on their toes. Today’s reading—private lesson with the 12 disciples. Coming betrayal, death, and resurrection. Told it three times. They didn’t get it. Wanted them to understand His biggest work—reason for why He was walking on this earth. His Kingship = His own suffering and death. Should have sparked dozens of questions, but they were afraid to ask. Embarrassed? Only ones who didn’t understand? Afraid to talk about death and the ultimate? (Might be a common fear today—hard for us to talk about death, esp. to our kids). Maybe fear of what death, even Jesus’ death, would mean for them.
4.      For now, content to forget about important things and argue over self-promotion—who was the greatest, ranking themselves, comparisons, putting themselves ahead of one another. Aren’t we often consumed with the same? Comparing possessions, beauty, fashion, intelligence, success, power, fame? Concerned to be ahead of everybody (or at least somebody) else? Were the disciples comparing who was the most righteous? Most qualified to lead? Doesn’t matter, because they missed the whole point of God’s kingdom. Jesus was teaching that His kingdom involved humility, service, and His own death and resurrection. They were consumed with rivalry. Ashamed to admit it, but Jesus saw through.
5.      Instead of a harsh lecture (what an opportunity!), He presents a child as a living object lesson. “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” And He took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but Him who sent me.” Jesus upsets their self-promoting way of thinking, and points them to being last of all and servant of all. But then why a child? What’s the connection between a child and servant? In the ancient world, a child had the same status in a household as a servant. Under a guardian or instructor. Only at a time set by their father, in adulthood, would they be free of their guardian. Whole life was regulated by their father.
6.      Really the same is true today. One pastor observed that kids don’t have the same low status today—but still dependent on parents. They have to go where we want them to, and when. Parents determine when they wake and go to bed, when they eat, watch TV, go to play with friends, etc. Of course they have minds of their own, and will try to assert their will, but if the house is to have any peace, the parent’s will has to prevail over the children’s. (David Scaer).
7.      So when Jesus describes the life of a child as being like the life of a servant, He means that it’s under regulation. Under rules and marked by humility and service. Quite the contrast to the self-promotion and contest for greatness that the disciples had in mind. But Jesus was also describing His own life. He was under regulation—the regulation of God, His Father (David Scaer). God’s will that Jesus was in the world. Betrayed by men, suffer death, and after three days rise. Jesus: a completely willing and obedient Son. He didn’t complain even as He suffered on the cross; He didn’t do it reluctantly or under force, but He willingly laid down His life. What possible motivation? Love. Incredible, divine love. Not too proud to humble Himself into service to mankind. To be the servant of all by laying down His life. This was Jesus’ faithful obedience, faithful sonship.
8.      Now what does it mean to receive a child in Jesus’ name? Taught disciples on many occasions—children aren’t a nuisance or bother. Invited them to come to Him, because the kingdom of God belongs to children. Models of simplicity, trust, humility. To receive a child in His name—is to welcome them, bring them to Jesus loving arms. We bring our children to Jesus when they come to church, to hear and be blessed by His Word. When we bring them to baptism to receive God’s adoption. When we pray with them or read them Bible stories. When they go to Sunday school to learn about God’s love for them.
9.      John 1 describes how when Jesus came into the world, He wasn’t received or welcomed. But those who did receive Him, He gave “the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:11-13). We who receive Jesus, who believe in Him, God makes children of God. Not born naturally, but re-born spiritually by water and the Holy Spirit (John 3). God’s family is always open to adoption, and He always welcomes new children into His family.
10.  What’s in store for God’s children? Christ sets us free from our sin, our wrongdoing. He sets us free from death. Jesus paid for our guilt on the cross. The apostle Paul says, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:25-27). By faith in Christ God adopts us into His family. Being baptized into Christ, we’re tied to His victory. All the blessings of the family become ours.
11.  We become “heirs through God” (Gal. 4:7). A child asks an important question: “What is an heir?” An heir is the person who receives your possessions when you die. Usually the family members or dearly loved friends are given an inheritance. A person who dies leaves everything that belongs to them with their heirs when they die, according to their wishes. When the Bible tells us that God makes us heirs, we’ve been adopted by baptism into His family. We’ve become His children, His heirs, so that when Jesus died, His will was put into effect, and all that belonged to Him is shared with us, according to His wishes. By faith in Him, we share in the forgiveness of sins and His perfect righteousness and innocence before God. Forgiveness, our rescue from sin and death, and eternal life are God’s gifts through Him. God opens His heavenly mansions to His children. The only difference from an earthly will, is that Jesus lives again to share in the inheritance with us! He rose from death to conquer the grave and live with us. This is the heart of God’s kingdom that Jesus invites His children to enter—faithful and trusting in Him and His love. Amen!

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      How comfortable are we with asking questions? To whom do we usually ask them? What things might keep us from asking (especially the important) questions? What kept the disciples from asking Jesus in Mark 9:30-32?

2.      When Jesus taught His disciples about His ultimate purpose for coming on earth (Mark 8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-45), what uncomfortable truth did He reveal? Why might we not want to hear about Jesus’ death and resurrection? Why are we uncomfortable with death? What ultimate questions face us? How does Jesus take away the fear of death for those who believe in Him? 1 Corinthians 15:56-57; Philippians 1:21

3.      Why are we so consumed with self-promotion and comparison to others? How is this completely opposite from the way the kingdom of God works? Read Mark 9:33-37 & 10:32-45. How is being last of all and servant of all a portrait of Jesus’ own life, death, and resurrection? Philippians 2:1-11.

4.      Why would Jesus compare the status of a child to that of a servant? Galatians 3:23-4:7. How are children dependent on, and directed by their parents? How did Jesus completely and willingly submit Himself to God and His Law? Galatians 4:4-5; John 8:27-30; 10:17-18. What motivated this self-sacrifice? John 15:13

5.      What does Jesus mean about “receiving” a child in His name? Mark 10:13-16. How does this show Jesus’ value for children? How do we receive Jesus? John 1:10-13. What privileges are granted to those who are re-born as children of God? How does it happen? John 3:1-8; Galatians 3:25-29; 4:6-7

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